COPY-Autauga County Sheriff's Office Needs Expansion

Autauga County Sheriff, Herbie Johnson, runs a tight ship, but it's a bit too tight these days.  The demands of his daily operation have far outgrown the old building design.  Investigators work out of a cramped seven-by-ten foot space.

Sheriff Johnson says, "If someone comes in for them to interview and all, one of them has to get up and leave the room sometimes just to have room to interview that person."

The narcotics K-9-- better known as Deputy Hobbs-- calls the nook under a desk home for now. Evidence is locked away in what is essentially a closet. At least one county commissioner agrees: this is a problem.

A.G. Carter, representative for district 3, says, "The sheriff has done an extra good job in this county with the position he's in in his building."

Plans to renovate the building and create more office space have been put on hold by the county commission. Carter says the expansion will be bundled with two others major projects: upgrading security at the courthouse and building more jail space.

"The commission, we have to look at the county as a whole," says Carter, "not just the sheriff's department; but the sheriff's department is at the top of the list."

The sheriff says he's heard this response from the commission for years now and still his department is packed in like sardines. All the while, Autauga County is experiencing a boom in population, expanding the department's reponsibilities.

Johnson adds, "Those houses are being built and people are moving in as soon as they're built. We're struggling just to keep up manpower-wise. It's hard to do our job and do it effectively, like it should be done."

The sheriff and his architect are finalizing the plans.  Then it'll be up to the county commission to give it's "okay."  In the best case scenario, work starts in 60 days.  So far, we don't know the price tag. Plans drawn five years ago put the project cost at more than $500,000.

The county commission is scrutinizing this and several other projects to see how many or how few they can afford.

Reporter: Theo Travers